The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi won't shop in dark
- Still cool to longer hours, capital downs shutters at 9

New Delhi, Sept. 19: Shoppers stop at 9 pm.

In Gurgaon, it could be on the to-do list of a busy executive; in Delhi, it is simply a statement on the market economy.

Three days and a weekend after the Delhi government lifted the time curbs on shops, footfalls grow faint as the evening progresses and most still prefer to down shutters at 9 pm.

Shopping destinations like South Extension, Greater Kailash I and II, Connaught Place, Janpath, Palika Bazaar, Defence Colony, Karol Bagh, Sarojini Nagar and Chandni Chowk are desolate two hours before the new 11 pm deadline.

An after-9 survey showed almost all the shops in Khan Market were closed. Lights glowed only in the showrooms of multinational giants like Nike and Reebok and titters wafted out of the restaurants.

Aarti, who was having dinner with her family in one of them, said: 'I would love to shop at this time. As there are nice eating joints here, it would be a good idea to shop and dine. I work during the day and going out on off-days to shop can be tiring.'

Maybe she should have headed for Karol Bagh. The shops there were open, but the patrons were few and far in between.

Though famous for a throbbing nightlife, Delhi'ites seem to be taking time to warm up to the idea of shopping late.

So are the shop owners, who argue it is just not business. Paying staff overtime, rotating them in shifts, employing additional staff or providing them conveyance as well as the restrictions on women working late under the Delhi Shops and Establishments Act makes the 11 pm deadline unviable, they say.

Neither are the employees enthusiastic as several shop owners have made it clear they have no intention of providing conveyance or paying overtime.

Rajesh, a shop assistant in Janpath who comes from Sonepat in Haryana, said: 'This is a bad decision. Earlier, even if we would finish by 7.30 pm, we would be home only by 10. Now it is even later and we can't catch the train. We don't reach home until 12 at night. We don't have any family life. There are no facilities to travel, so how are we going to manage'

Does he get paid overtime' 'Who will pay us overtime when it is a question of having a job or not having a job,' he put in bluntly.

Conveyance is a major issue. 'At 9 pm, I can take out my car and go home. But what do I do about my boys' I can't expect them to stay late,' said the owner of a high-profile music shop.

'Our biggest problem is that 70 per cent of the shop assistants in this market (GK) are girls. How can we ask them to stay late' Dropping them home will prove to be too expensive and impractical. So we are closing at 9 pm and Tuesdays continue to be an off day,' said Madan Narula, general secretary of the Main Market Association, Greater Kailash.

If Janpath and CP are deserted by 9, many blame the construction of the Metro Rail corridor at Connaught Place (though the owners don't agree).

Will the Metro Rail corridor, expected to be ready by the end of the year, solve the problem' 'Metro Rail will not solve any problem. I come from Bulandshahr. How will that help me' said Anil Kumar, a shop assistant at a clothing store in CP.

As most market associations ' a number of them supported by the BJP ' wait and watch, Vijay Goel, a BJP MP, has taken up their cause. Criticising Congress chief minister Sheila Dikshit, Goel promised a phased agitation against the Delhi government.

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